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Suicide a growing issue in the military

ST. MARYS (Tribune News Service) — More veterans have died by their own hands than in combat since Desert Storm in 1991.

But it's not just combat veterans who return home after fighting for their nation, fellow soldiers and their very lives who consider taking their own lives.

So far this year, 28 active-duty sailors and nine Navy Reservists have committed suicide.

Ten years ago, the suicide rate was 9.1 per 100,000 sailors (32 deaths). Last year, the rate was 16.3 per 100 sailors (53 deaths).

Veterans Administration officials realize mental health is a growing issue among veterans and those still serving. Even the stress of living up to the high expectations of commanding officers can be enough to compel some veterans to consider taking their lives.

Scott Bassett, a spokesman at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, said suicide statistics for individual bases are not released, but suicide prevention programs are held on a regular basis. In fact, September is Suicide Prevention Month, which is recognized throughout the Navy's Southeast Region.

"It's very heart wrenching when you wonder what you could have done," Bassett said. "They take the answer with them."

It's not just the stress of combat that makes some serving contemplate suicide. When military personnel deploy, whether it's to a combat zone, an overseas duty station or aboard a nuclear submarine, there are similarities that create stress.

In many instances, they can't go beyond the fence line in hostile territory or they are confined in a ship in the middle of the ocean.

"That's all you have is your job," Bassett said.

The problem is, some people don't want to admit the rigors of the job are overwhelming them.
"A lot of folks don't ask for help," he said. "We're actively training our servicemembers to recognize the symptoms."

Danny Jenkins, a mental health provider at the VA hospital in Dublin, said he often learns about veterans struggling with mental health issues through other veterans.

"By the time they come to see us, it can be bad," he said.

Jenkins said 22 veterans take their lives every day.

"What can we do to stop that? What can we say to give relief?" he asked.

About 22 percent of suicides in the military are attributed to post traumatic stress disorder, Jenkins said.

Reporter Gordon Jackson writes about Camden County and other local topics. Contact him at gjackson@thebrunswicknews.com or at 464-7655.
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(c)2015 The Brunswick News (Brunswick, Ga.)
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